< There was a day when only men lifted weights, and even then weight lifting was primarily the realm of competitive bodybuilders. But the times are certainly a changin’ as more and more women are introduced to the benefits of strength training … and guess what … they like it!

These days, no fitness plan is complete unless it contains both a health low-fat diet, a few rounds of cardio each week, and a comprehensive strength training program. But don’t take our word for it – listed below are a few of the benefits that every woman can enjoy as soon as she picks up a set of dumbbells or learns how to use a few basic weight training machines at the gym.

Increased Strength
Having trouble lifting that case of bottled water into your grocery cart? That, and other routine physical tasks will become much easier once you build bit of extra muscle. Your body will also be less prone to injury with increased muscle strength. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that your cardio routine is building muscle – aerobic activity burns calories, but it takes intense resistance to build muscle fiber. If your fitness plan consists of running 7 days a week, you can do your body a favor and trade 3 of those workouts each week for a 30-minute strength training session.

Higher Metabolism
It is a scientific fact that it takes more calories to sustain one pound muscle than one pound of fat. By replacing fat with muscle, you are automatically forcing your body to burn more calories each day, without adding more exercise to your schedule. And if you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in, guess what fuels the energy deficit? Yep, that’s right … stored fat! So each time you complete a bicep curl or perform one more leg squat, just know that you have turned up the flame in your fat burning furnace. Feels good doesn’t it?

Better Appearance After Weight Loss
If you have ever looked at somebody who has lost weight and thought to yourself “Hmm, they looked better before they lost weight” … you are probably looking at somebody who used a calorie-restricted diet to lose weight, but neglected to do any resistance training along the way. The result is loose sagging skin and an overall “soft” appearance. When the fat is gone, something needs to fill the skin, especially in more mature dieters whose skin doesn’t have the same elasticity as it once did. What better to fill the void than nice smooth firm muscle!

Target Problem Areas
While cardio is necessary to burn overall fat, it is possible to use weight training to improve the appearance of certain areas of the body. You can visibly raise and firm your buttocks, flatten your stomach and define your 6-pack abs, and firm and tone your shoulders and the backs of your arms.

Increased Bone Density
Women, in particular, need to be aware of the dangers of osteoporosis, a health condition that leads to the deterioration of bone mass and increases the possibility of bone fractures. The American College of Sports Medicine encourages women to reduce their chances of developing osteoporosis by participating in a regular weight training program.

Improved Posture
Besides contributing to back pain, poor posture simply is not very attractive. Women who use strength training to tone the muscles in their shoulder blades, lower back and abdominal region can significantly improve their posture.

The best strength training routines will target the large muscle groups in the lower body one day, and the muscles in the upper body the next day. It’s best to each muscle group rest 48 hours before putting it back to work, but abdominal and core exercises can be done every day.

So how do you start your new weight training program? You can always engage the services of a personal trainer to get you started; after a few sessions you’ll probably be ready to set your own schedule and choose your own weights. If you enjoy group exercise, you’ll likely find that option at your local gym, as well. There are a number of different group exercise classes that incorporate weight training into the class, either through the use of lightweight dumbbells or by using elastic resistance bands and balls.

Of course, if you prefer to work out at home, there are numerous strength training programs on DVD. Just pick one that looks interesting and get started! You’ll be reaping the benefits of strength training in as little as two weeks.

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